Jerry Wolveridge's Off-grid Home
Over 10 years ago Jerry Wolveridge, Director of Collingwood-based architecture practice Wolveridge Architects, was designing a home for his clients on a rural property in western Victoria. The project was going well until the clients decided that maybe a coastal lifestyle was for them, so they moved to Torquay. Jerry jumped on the opportunity and purchased the land of the clients, and designed a home for himself.
Whilst reviewing local agricultural buildings, one particular building caught Jerry’s attention. “What I liked about it was its simple form.” Says Jerry in the video, “It was built in Victorian times. Timber clad shed with an iron roof, with a steep pitch. Random openings.” And so building a home to reflect these sheds, these agricultural buildings, seemed most appropriate in the landscape. Using a steel portal frame, the off-grid home relates closer to a shed than to a typical home. The materiality of steel, concrete, recycled timber and concrete masonry isn’t commonly used in domestic dwellings, but these durable materials are important in the tough rural landscape. The interior of the home is deliberately dark to help draw your eye out to the vistas beyond, allowing you to have a strong connection with the site.
The home is off-grid, using a variety of systems to help heat, cool, power and supply water to the building. The long skinny layout of the home allows for cross ventilation in all rooms, complimented with ceiling fans to help circulate the air. In the 10 years Jerry has lived in the home, Australia has experienced some seriously hot summers, and the home has been able to keep the interior spaces cool. But of course it isn’t about just cooling the home, in winter it can get chilly. Large expanses of glazing allows the sun to be soaked into the concrete slab, and wood-fired 35 kilowatt Siemens boiler in the laundry helps to heat the home. Radiated grills and panels ensures that bedrooms and living spaces are comfortable on those days where the sun has disappeared.
Reflecting on his design from 10 years ago, Jerry recounts some of those hotter days. “We've had 45 degree days ongoing and the house getting up to a maximum of about 27degC.” And while 27degC is pretty warm, compare that to the 45degC outside. But not only that, compare that to if he built a standard home. He would not doubt be lacking cross ventilation opportunities, and the insulation rating wouldn’t be as high. Now, in a standard home you would probably have an air-conditioning system, chewing up electricity. I think I know which design I would prefer, plus, there’s a dam and (now) a swimming pool to jump into to cool down.
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